TAMPA Lt. Natalie Brown of Tampa Fire Rescue was on duty Sunday when she overheard an odd emergency call originating from the airport.
“I heard a snake was loose,” Brown said. “We’ve had some training in venomous snakes so I turned to my partner and said, ‘Hey, let’s check it out. Maybe we can help.’”
Recalling scenes from nature shows she’s watched, Brown said she grabbed a pillowcase from a colleague’s bed at the fire station.
“I remember seeing that snakes can breathe through them,” she said. “I thought, ‘We could capture it with this.’”
The pillowcase had red fire trucks on it.
Brown then headed to the cell phone waiting lot at Tampa International Airport, where she learned that a Super Shuttle driver found the 5-foot long boa constrictor had slithered into the vehicle’s engine compartment.
By the time first responders got there, the reptile was on the asphalt and surrounded by people.
No one was hurt, including the snake.
Brown picked it up, placed it in the pillowcase, tied it and left without any further incident.
“It appeared very healthy,” Brown said. “It was probably somebody’s pet.”
Gary Morse, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said boa constrictors are not native to the state. The one found at the airport could be an escaped pet, he said.
And snakes of all species have been known to seek shelter in vehicle engines as they cool down, Morse said.
Boas are not venomous and are not known to attack people. A boa could bite a person defensively if it’s handled incorrectly, Morse said, and a large boa could attack “a very small pet.”
“They’re no threat to people,” Morse said. “The snakes won’t seek them out. It’ll avoid them.”
Brown said she has not named the snake and is waiting one more day to see if anyone will claim the reptile as their pet.
If no one comes forward, Brown said she’s going to give the boa to a friend in Hernando County who has other snakes as pets.
Airport spokeswoman Christine Osborn said it isn’t unusual to have snakes on the property — work crews often see the reptiles in construction zones.
But Sunday’s encounter in the cell phone waiting lot was a rarity, she said.
“This is definitely a first for us,” Osborn said.